Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another 8-month wait...

[Warning: some spoilers ahead...]

So let's count how many times I've blogged about Lost ever since we started watching the series: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and now ten (plus nominal mentions here and here). And is it any wonder? I adored Buffy- it will always be my TV first-love (okay, actually, that accolade might have to go to Northern Exposure), but Lost is a whole other dimension altogether (and I mean that in a myriad of ways...). I love that it demands something of me- a kind of commitment if you will- to its intricate narrative and tightly woven plot. If you missed something in Season 1, a conversation you're watching in Season 4 isn't going to have the same resonance; find that scene familiar? It's probably a mirror of something that happened a season and a half ago. A mystery you had long thought was never going to be addressed suddenly unravels before you like you had only seen it last week. Lost is not a forgiving show to obsess over- it insists on your devotion to every minute detail. And I am its willing slave.

It would be pompous to declare that I understand everything about Lost's mythology- honestly, I couldn't care less if I never find out the provenance of the four-toed statue or who/what Smokey is. And I'm OK with not catching ever single reference to Nietzsche, Phillip K. Dick or social-contract theory. But if I wanted to, I could. For an hour every week, a TV show doesn't insult my intelligence and actually expects me to engage with it, demands that I invest myself in its intricacy and complexity. Some people say it's too pseudo-cerebral, that the writers are just making things up as they go along and throwing whatever philosophical and literary psycho-babble they can conjure into the mix. To them, I say this: I'd much rather spend an hour deconstructing illusory references to dead philosophers than watch a man wearing a crown on his head and a clock around his neck pick the next love of his life from a bevy of self-absorbed, narcissistic, half-naked buxom women. Besides, I enjoy a relaxing, no-brainer experience in front of the TV as much as the next person and that's what Comedy Central, the Food Network and Bravo are for.

And even if all the mythology doesn't appeal to you, there's plenty of action, drama and downright good acting to go around. For one, Sun's tragic hysteria in reaction to her husband's (apparent?) death last night was enough to reduce me to tears. And there has never been a more dramatic car reversal when the action picked up exactly from where the Season 3 finale ended and Kate returned to confront Jack about having to go back to the island. Don't even get me started on Sawyer's sacrifice or Ben's all-round awesomeness... And Locke in the coffin?? WTH!!!

See here for an excellent Slate article on why the fourth season of Lost is the best one yet.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tune of the week: Don & Drew - My sister's cat



Although this is an ad for Podcast.sg, I have to say that this qualifies as my favourite tune of the week :) You can bet I'll be humming or singing this over the weekend (and to the annoyance of Serene ;) )

If you are familiar with Mandarin, you will recognize the tune as a common children's song. 10,000pts to Andrew Crothers for performing in Mandarin, and another 10,000pts to Don Richmond for his heavy metal/rock interpretation of the tune. Love it!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Symbiosis

It's 4 days to the Ann Arbor-Dexter run and Serene Koh ran her first ever 10K today! Yup, that's right, I rock... :) 57:02 minutes, 678 calories and 5:41 minutes/km. Not shabby at all if I should say so myself. And I figured if I can do this in the 3pm hot sun, I can do on a cool Sunday morning. I wasn't planning on running the full 10K today really, but by the time I got to 9.5K, I was like, I've come so far, what's another 500m? And so I did. I'm planning one more run on Friday- which may or may not be another 10K- and I should be ready for Sunday. Under an hour. That's all I'm aiming for.

It's amazing, really, what your body can do when you apply yourself to a task- who knew 6 weeks ago that my body's capable of running continuously for more than 45 minutes? Like my dad says, it's all about slowly increasingly the mileage. If you can do 6K, you can do 7K. If you can do 7K, 8K's a cinch, etc... The other thing that has really helped me is yoga. It's made me a better breather (yes, there *is* such a thing), and as a result, a stronger runner. It's also strengthened my calves and quads (those warrior poses kick major ass!) which really helps too. I've come to look forward to yoga a lot, and it's become more than just about toning muscles in places I didn't know I had muscles to tone in the first place. In that hour of sustained concentration and focus, I become acutely aware of my body and its different dimensions- my posture, alignment, breathing, reach, strength, center, etc, and I find that kind of self-awareness very calming. Plus it's all me- the poses don't rely on machines or weights- it's what my body is capable of and comfortable doing at that moment. I'm not into the more spiritual aspects of yoga (although I love that my instructor sings her ohms) but I have to admit that as tough as it sometimes is (beads of sweat dripping onto my yoga mat probably indicates a fairly decent workout), the deep burn that comes with yoga is actually kinda of cathartic, "cleansing", if you will- both mentally and physiologically- and that's something I find deeply alluring. The fact that my running helps my yoga (it builds the stamina I need to maintain those sustained downward dogs) as much as yoga is helping my running just makes it all the more perfect.

Namaste :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"...not as easy as it used to be."

[Spoiler alert!- don't read on if you don't want details about the movie. Not that it would make a difference, really...]
[photo from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull imdb site]

It made me sad. Kinda like seeing an old friend fade away in spurts and gasps rather than as a comforting, nostalgic memory of good times past. Until today, I remembered the Indy movies as wonderful adventure stories- always witty, rollicking fun and well, exciting, for the lack of a better word. I'd like to think that I am still capable of being awed, and that it's not age that has made me feel any less for a favorite movie character from my childhood.

Honestly, the new Indiana Jones movie was terrible. Downright awful. And it made me sad. Oh right, I said that already. But it did... I knew going in that it wasn't going to be anything like the Indy movies I had grown up with and loved, but nothing prepared me for how bad it was. I expect more from Lucas and Spielberg. The story was weak, the production quality was oddly uneven- one might even say shoddy, and Harrison Ford really looked like he was going to bust an artery. And inter-dimensional beings? Aliens? Surviving a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge? A UFO??!! I lost count of how many times throughout the movie where I went, "Oh, come ON!..."

I do have to say that it was nice seeing Karen Allen again- I really liked her in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And hearing the familiar strains of the theme song always makes me smile- bad movie or not. But apart from that, the movie was just disappointing. It was like they were trying so hard to recreate the allure of the original movies by upping the ante with the CG-effects that they forgot that what made those early Indy movies so great was just good ol' adventure storytelling, authentic action sequences (which you just can't compensate with special effects overload), and a cast that looked like they were having fun and not just doing a job, or trying to revive a career. I felt like I was watching a bad "The Mummy" sequel, except without Brendan Fraser.

Like I said, it made me sad. And I will say that, again and again...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Nom Nom Nom Nom?

Just saw this photo on the BBC news website and thought it eloquently exemplifies the latest in Internet speak - "Om nom nom nom" - a sound of ravenous eating made popular by the Sesame Street's Cookie Monster. Also check out this endearing interview between NPR's Elizabeth Blair and Cookie Monster.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Weekend in Chicago

[click for photos]

I've never done more in 30 hours- attended a baseball game, watched a movie (not too impressed by movie, though), got discombobulated by a city's renovating train system, ate ridiculously good tacos, had a dozen warm donuts for breakfast (not by myself of course), took an architectural boat tour, fell in love with a neighbourhood, tasted mead for the first time, and again, heedlessly bought more books we might not have time to read... a.k.a. Jude and I spent the weekend in Chicago. And as always, it was glorious :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tunes of the week - Very 80s

I decided to try out muxtape to share my music online. Check out my very first effort below:

Gong - Love Is How You Make It

Cut Copy - Unforgettable Season

M83 - You, Appearing

Portishead - Threads

The Clash - Lost In The Supermarket

Scritti Politti - Absolute

Titus Andronicus - Upon Viewing Brueghel's "Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus"

It just so happens that the music I am listening to happens to be from the 80s or very inspired by it. Can't help it ... it's the era that I spent my formative years in :) Also, it just so happens that the indie kids these days are in love with all things 80s. So I can't complain. Anyway, to listen to the above tracks, just head on to this URL:

http://jyew.muxtape.com

Monday, May 12, 2008

Validation

So I defended my dissertation proposal on Friday. Finally. Although "defending" is probably too self-important a word; it really was more of a chat, honestly. In fact, one of the nice things that my adviser said to me after the meeting was how it was more of an intellectual discussion between four colleagues than it was me trying to convince three professors why my dissertation topic is worth spending the next year and a half on. The thing is, ever since I decided on my research topic almost two years ago, I've been pretty much on my own with this study. It's a novel way of researching national identity, particularly because I'm working so closely with young children, and the interdisciplinary nature of my work isn't always of the kind that is done in my school; which means besides my professor and Jude, there are few people I share thoughts about my work with.

But on Friday, I was forced to pull my ideas into a coherent whole and present it to a group of people whose hands hold my academic future. I had to justify why this research is important not just because I say it is, but also as a significant contribution to the field of education, political science and childhood sociology. It wasn't a public session, but it was the first time I was presenting my work formally to people who weren't bound by any reason to have to be nice to me. In fact, a dissertation proposal defense was literally designed for you to "defend" your work against attacks on its merit. To say that I was nervous is an understatement. Apart from fretting about what I was going to say, I also spent half and hour figuring out what outfit to wear- the first time I've ever done that since we moved here. In fact, the last time I worried so much about what to wear out of the house was our wedding...

At some point 15 minutes into the meeting though, something about the tone of the meeting changed, and I think that's when I began feeling like it became more of a chat than a defense. I was showing my committee some pictures I had collected from children when I was home in Singapore in summer last year, and sharing some preliminary findings I had to support my study. One of them sat back in her chair, took off her glasses and almost sighed. What she said next, I will carry with me as inspiration during those moments over the next year and half where I will invariably feel like giving up:

"And that, Serene, is what you will tell Terry Gross when she interviews you about your book on NPR."

At that moment, my adviser beamed at me with so much pride, it was as if I had finished writing my dissertation already. She didn't say a Pulitzer or a Nobel, but she didn't have to say anything to begin with. And Fresh Air is good enough for me :) It felt quite wonderful, really. To be validated about something you've carried almost as your own private precious possession for so long. This is an original piece of work, my contribution to academia, me putting out into the ether something that did not exist before. And that people other than myself and those closest to me think that it is valuable work too was at that moment a little startling to me. Throughout the next hour or so, my committee was nothing but enthusiastic and encouraging. They seemed genuinely excited about my work and I remember, if nothing else, feeling a vague sense of euphoria :)

I'm skipping a little ahead of myself, of course- I haven't even started data collection for the study yet. But that feeling- this feeling I have right now- is what I was hoping to have, but didn't expect to really achieve when I first settled on this topic. A kind of strange stewardship, if you will, over my work. With the encouragement and support I've been getting from Jude, my friends and family, and now validation from my committee, I'm truly inspired to craft the best work I'm capable of, and put it out there. It's not going to heal the world, make it a better place, *for you and for me and the entire human race*, but it'll be my small contribution. And maybe, that's enough for now.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sad Kermit

My jaws are aching. I almost peed in my pants. And I almost spit coffee all over my computer. All thanks to Dark Orpheus and Sad Kermit.

Honestly, this is one of the most brilliantly funny things I've come across in a while (although I'm sure that was not the original intent of the creators). And these people are clearly very talented too, so it's not like funny for funny's sake. It's Kermit re-visioned as an emo, melancholic, acoustic guitar-playing manic-depressive. Basically, it's Kermit as Nick Drake, if you will. This ain't no Rainbow Connection, people. In fact, if you go to the MySpace page, you'll see "Rainbow Disconnection" (the original played in morose, minor chord. You realize how sad the lyrics actually are and start wondering how it could ever have been sung as a happy song to begin with...) My particular favorite is "Creep"- I only narrowly averted the potential caffeine-induced computer disaster because of it. Thom Yorke would weep.

Sad Kermit also does Elliot Smith's "Needle in the Hay" and parodies this suicide scene from The Royal Tenenbaums.



I wish I was special
You're so f***ing special
But I am green
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here
I don’t belong here
- Sad Kermit doing Radiohead's "Creep"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Dark Knight- new trailer

Have I mentioned how much I'm waiting for the movie to open? Have I? Have I? Oh right, I have.

[click poster for new *freaking awesome!* HD trailer]

If Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is as good as these clips suggest — and my brain starts popping every time I see his deliriously committed, smeared-makeup personification of pure, nut-job Evilness — then we’ve got a potential Best Supporting Actor nominee that will be much more than just a sentimental gesture to a cherished, departed actor.
-Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

Monday, May 05, 2008

First weekend off

For the first time in months (except that weekend when we drove to Wisconsin), I took the weekend COMPLETELY off work- from 3.30pm Friday till right now (approx. 11.38pm EST Sunday), I turned on my computer only to check my email (without replying to any), to write a blog post about Leopold's, and to play Scrabulous.

Friday
- Met Rick and Emilee after school to go the opening sale at the new REI in A2. Jude got himself a sweet pair of winter boots at 20% off. Nice score!
- Had deliriously good cheesy biscuits at Red Lobster. Would go there just for the biscuits alone. Searched online for replica recipe- apparently, Bisquick is key...
- Watched Iron Man. Cheesy plot but whiplash script. Robert Downey Jr. was only one worth watching. He was clearly just acting himself. Note to self: witnessing beginning of (empowered) women-free zone, otherwise known as the summer movie season.

Saturday
- Woke up early (unheard of!) for 7K run. 3K more to target. Training's been going well. Feeling stronger, but a little hard maintaining the under 6-minute/K pace.
- Made buttermilk pancakes and bacon for brunch- had to make run worthwhile.
- Watched mindless Saturday afternoon TV.
- Napped.
- Played Guitar Hero for a couple of hours (Beat Slash at Battle and we played "Welcome to the Jungle" together"- I think we rock...)
- Took a walk to the Asian grocery store for a bottle of black vinegar. And Thai instant noodles. Yumm...
- Got a visit from my friend, Deborah her husband, Jonathan who are thinking of moving into family housing in the Fall. Drank root beer and talked about noisy vs. saintly neighbours.
- Joined Libby, Bill, Jolie and Adrienne for dinner in Dexter. Thank you for some good food, North Point- we will be back.
- Met Dan at Leopold's where we bid farewell to the pub while enjoying the phenomenal live performance of Great Lakes Myth Society.
- Blogged about the performance.
- Fell asleep to re-runs on Comedy Central.

Sunday
- Woke up to empty bed and remembered that Jude's had left for Metro Grand Spring Tour, a 25-, 40- or 60-mile bike ride through the Metro Parks. I was just too much of a wimp to wake up early two days in a row to exercise. Go Jude!
- Made up for not going to the MGST by biking to the gym for resistance training. Note to self: go to the gym on Sundays more- no nubile female undergrads to make you feel fat and no one to fight you for weights.
- Had leftovers from dinner for lunch. North Point- not just good, generous too.
- Enjoyed the gorgeous sunny day by going downtown for a bite with Jude because apparently, biking 25-miles makes a man hungry ;) Tried Eastern Flame on Ashley and Liberty. Definitely not going back.
- Supported local merchants (or so we told ourselves) by buying a shirt from Sam's Clothing Store and a new happy shower curtain from Acme Mercantile.
- Visited the new Two Wheel Tango on Jackson (told you we were supporting local merchants today). Jude needed to switch his trail tires to street tires since he realized he was now doing more road biking. Will see how much he likes his new tires before deciding whether to switch mine out too.
- Spent an hour in Target buying random things even though only planned on getting a box fan in anticipation of crazy hot summer to come. Things that ended up in our cart: box fan, pack of running socks, contact lens solution, 3 cans of soup, pack of frozen cod, and four-pack of pomegranate Izze.
- Napped (I love that I guiltlessly napped two days in a row...)
- Ate dinner in front of TV.
- Watched the George Lopez special on Comedy Central and fell over ourselves in laughter :)
- Blogged

I might just make this an early night and go to bed before 1am. And that would really mean I took the weekend off! :)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Last call @ Leopold's


Jude and I bid farewell to a good friend tonight. A friend that's been with us through countless birthdays, grad student visiting days and orientations; whose generous picnic tables will be sorely missed for "research meetings"; whose phenomenal jukebox plays better music than most radio stations we know; and it was the place where I had my first delicious- and till now, only- Pisco. Todd Leopold announced in February that Leopold Brothers is leaving A2 for Denver:
We’re moving our distilling operations to Denver, Colorado this spring, and closing our bar in Ann Arbor at the start of summer.

Our lease expires in the summer, and shockingly (note heavy sarcasm), our landlords asked for an obscene amount per month in rent, so we’re done. This move has zero to do with the economy, or sales levels, as we are coming off of our strongest year of sales at the pub since we’ve been open. We moved here in 1998, and since that time our rent has tripled, and our new landlords want even more….because, of course, that’s what the market will bear.

I hope to run into you all before we leave, and I wish Ann Arbor the best. The business climate isn’t one that we can survive, however.
- taken from ann arbor is overrated
To send the beloved brewpub off with a bang, there will be a performance there every weekend throughout the month of May. We were lucky today to bask in the boisterous awesomeness that is Great Lakes Myth Society, a local band made semi-big. When Leopold's first opened almost ten years ago, they were among its first regular customers and began playing shows there thereafter. So it was rather apt for them to start off the big farewell to this Ann Arbor institution.

Goodbye Leopold's. We'll miss you...